It’s the morning after Thanksgiving, my favorite part of the holiday. I’m going over the post-food highlights the way the guys go over the after-football game highlights.
The absolute funniest and surprisingly tastiest part of our meal was the turkey. I gave it a good massage with oil and butter and seasonings, stuffed the cavity with celery and garlic then tucked it into a cooking bag. Finally I put the who shebang into an electric roaster. (By the way, a wonderful purchase to free up your ovens on holidays.) Several hours later I asked my husband to turn off the roaster. He did not hear me and I was busy with guests… and well, that turkey roasted itself an extra 2 hours at 325.
When it was time to “deal with the bird” my sister-in-law Gail and I positioned ourselves so that I could lift the turkey out of the pan and juice for “carving” with a pair of heat-proof rubber gloves. But when I lifted the turkey…. to our shock, all the meat literally fell off the bone.
And I mean, ALL the meat.
Both breasts slid off in chunks, like a landslide, and then almost cartoon-like — the wings and thighs dropped off — plop, plop, plop, plop– into the broth. And there I stood, my eyes wide as saucers, holding nothing but a meatless turkey carcass.
Gail and I stood there, up to our elbows in steaming turkey parts and juice, trying so hard not to laugh as we stared at the skeleton I was now holding in disbelief. Instead of carving the turkey, we had to serve it more like pulled pork. There was nothing, really to photograph. You’ve seen one meatless turkey backbone, you’ve seen them all. But it was the juiciest most delicious turkey meat we have ever had! I am seriously contemplating repeating my “Accidental Turkey” recipe on purpose next year.
The second biggest hit was, at least for me, the pecan pie! I culled together all the best advice I could get and came up with what will be my go-to pecan pie recipe from now on! The best part is that there isn’t much “eggy-goo” — just a delicate, buttery, rich praline-like filling chocked full of pecans. By making a layer of chopped pecans, and then arranging pecan halves over the top of the pastry, you end up with a beautiful and crunchy pie!
So before I forget how I made it, here’s the recipe!
Pecan Pie Perfection
1 unbaked pie shell
3 large eggs
1 cup dark Karo (corn) syrup (I don’t like using or eating much corn syrup, but once a year, it is worth it!)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 T. salted butter (if you don’t use salted butter, then add 1/4 t. salt)
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. brandy flavoring
1 cup chopped pecans
about 1/2 cup of pecan halves or enough to decorate the top
In a medium mixing bowl crack and beat the eggs, then add the sugars, the butter and flavorings and stir well with a whisk.
Into prepared, uncooked pastry shell, spread the chopped pecans. Now, over the chopped pecans, arrange the halves in a pretty pattern, side by side. Very slowly and carefully pour in the filling and the pecans will rise to the top, and surprisingly, won’t shift around much — so the pattern will stay beautiful. Bake at 325 for about an hour or until the crust is is deep golden brown and the filling is set. I like my pies to lean a little on the extra brown side as the crust does not get soggy.
On this Independence Day weekend, besides thanking God and American heroes and military for our freedoms, and enjoying good food and each other….it might be fun to ponder something you’d like to “declare independence” from today: perhaps you’ll declare freedom from taking abuse in any form, freedom from guilt that holds you back, perfection that keeps you paralyzed, worry that wastes your time, bitterness that is eating you up or grudges you have held so long that you’ve forgotten the lightness of soul that letting go brings.
How about freedom from attachment to certain outcomes, or demanding life and people be other than they are, freedom from wanting what we don’t have, freedom to love without people-pleasing, freedom to validate others instead of dictate what they should think or do to be more like you?. Freedom to relax, and be who you are, and permission to nourish yourself body, soul and mind.
Freedom to say no, with kindness instead of resentment. Freedom to detach, when you need a break, with love. Freedom to nap, to play, to slow down. To create a life that makes you want to get up every morning. To bless those who disagree with you, without angst or rage, and get on with doing the good stuff in the world you have been called to do in the circles around you. To laugh more, whine less. Be more humble and easy-going and understanding that all humanity is messed up in some way, including our very flawed selves. Freedom from judging, while welcoming more grace.
Aren’t we blessed to live with these everyday choices to choose freedom over bondage?
Jesus said, “I have come that You may have life and have it more abundantly,” and “You are no longer slaves, but free…”
In our world, and in our thoughts, Lord, let freedom ring!
(A note of thanks to two of my adorable grandchildren, Jackson & 3 week old Corabelle, for providing the cuteness to this blog. And to their mom, my daughter and co-author, Rachel, for the excellent photography! If you want to read more about Corabelle’s debut, you must read Rachel’s latest post on her arrival at http://www.thenourishedmama.com/blog/meet-corabelle )
And if you want to read more about how to prioritize and nourish your life… check out our latest book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full Night’s Sleep.
(Becky, the Mama.)
What do you get when you put two of mama’s best comfort foods — pot roast and marinara/ pasta — together?
Heaven in a bowl.
This has to be one of my all-time favorite creations using any left-over beef you have in the fridge from pot roast to steak. (I had some grilled flank steak left-over that I cut into pieces and used for this recipe. ) The addition of wine and beef broth (or Lipton onion soup, which is what I had on hand) and splash of heavy cream creates an extra layer of homey warmth to a traditional marinara. The wide Pappardelle noodles create the perfect nest for this dish.
I am about to head to my daughter Rachel’s home in Texas this weekend awaiting the birth of her second child, a little girl (!) who will be named Corabelle.
While Rachel is busy and recovering and nursing a newborn, I plan to whip up some comfort food with the help of my sous chef, Corabelle’s big almost-4-year-old brother, Jackson.
Rachel and Jared are still mostly vegans, so I will often make things like rice bowls or pasta dishes that are easy to tweak for vegans and carnivores alike. At Rachel’s house, I am going to try subbing Miso for the beef broth. (Miso is the closest thing I have found to bringing out a “meaty” flavor in vegetarian cooking. In fact, I love the butter, savory flavor that Miso imparts so much that I often add it to meat-based dishes to upgrade the richness. ) I will probably substitute my favorite vegan meat, Field Roast sausages, sliced and browned in olive oil, then sprinkled on top. (Other options: lentils; or chick peas, roasted in the oven first.) For creaminess, I will likely blend up some raw cashews with a little cashew or almond milk, or use use canned whole fat coconut milk. Either makes a nice substitute for a splash of cream!
No matter how you tweak this dish to make it your own, I think you will love it and that it will soon become one of your go-to favorites!
P.S. If you happen to be looking for some funny, uplifting, soul-and-body nourishing books to tuck in your beach bag this summer, you may enjoy one of our recent books!
Savory Italian Pot Roast Pasta
1 large 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes with basil added)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cups beef broth or 1/2 package Lipton onion soup mix with 1 cup hot water
1/2 cup red wine
2 t. brown sugar
2 t. oregano or Italian seasoning
A handful of chopped fresh basil if you have it on hand
1 cup diced beef, already cooked (such as leftover roast or steak, or even pulled pork or pork loin would work as well )
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cream
Pappardelle pasta to yield 4 servings, cooked
Fresh grated Parmesan Cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions.
In a big skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, broth (or Lipton soup mixture), garlic, red wine, beef, and Italian seasonings and brown sugar. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until it is the thickness you like for pasta sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and add cream. Ladle over Pappardelle pasta in low flat bowls, then grate Parmesan cheese over all. I am purposely messy with the Parm cheese as I think it makes the dish look rustic and beautiful.
Variations: Add bits of cooked carrots, peas and potatoes to make this a one-bowl meal, and add to the “Sunday pot roast with veggies” feel.
Today I brought lunch to a bunch of hungry men, including two of my sons, who took a Saturday to pull their considerable talents and muscle together to build a very special tree house for a sweet little 5 year old girl, recovering from major surgery.
One of the easiest, most economical, filling, and yummy things to Make & Take to feed a crowd is bar-b-que pulled pork sandwiches! The sauce is so good, you really don’t need any condiments, but a spoonful of my Easy, Spicy Crunchy Asian Slaw on top adds extra deliciousness!
I like to use an even mixture of pork loin (which is the lean white meat cut of pork) and pork butt (which is darker, a little fattier and more tender). This recipe will easily feed 10 people, but I doubled the recipe today, and was able to cook the whole thing in my extra big crockpot — which yielded enough for 20. Just turn on your crock pot the night before and it will be ready to pull it apart in the morning; or start it in the morning and have dinner ready when you come home.
Easy Bar-B-Que Pulled Pork in a Crock Pot
2 – 3 lbs. pork loin
2 -3 lbs pork butt (with or without bone)
1 full head of fresh garlic, peeled, and rough chopped
2 t. Tony’s Chachere’s Seasoning (or your favorite Cajun Seasoning with Salt)
2 t. Grill Seasoning (or 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t pepper)
2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 cups your favorite bottled B-B-Q Sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)
1/2 cup ready-made Italian Dressing, any kind
1 t. Tabasco sauce
1 envelope dry Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 cup water
2 T. brown sugar (if you prefer your sauce a little sweet)
Cut the pieces of pork into about 6 big pieces. Whisk the rest of the ingredients for the sauce into a big bowl. Pour half the sauce into the crock pot, add the cut pieces of pork arranging evenly, pour the rest of the sauce on top of the meat. Cook on high for 5 to 7 hours or until tender enough that when you pull at the meat with two forks it comes apart easily. When pork is tender, lift out the meat with tongs or two big spoons, and place in a big rectangle pan. Using two forks tear the meat into shreds. Pour the sauce from the crock pot over the meat and mix evening so that the light and dark meats are evenly combined. Taste and check seasonings, adjust to your taste. At this point you can serve it right away, or cover and refrigerate, then reheat in the oven (covered with foil) at 350 for about 20 minutes when you are ready to serve. Serve on your favorite buns or potato rolls with slaw, extra bottled BBQ sauce, sliced pickles and jalapenos.
(Becky, the Mama.)
What is it about being snowed in that turns even makes even the most anti-cooking folks fire up the oven and don an apron? Here’s a recipe that is not only easy to make, and scrumptious, but will make your house smell like Pure Love.
I know, I know… the last recipe I posted was an apple dessert, too. But as you read in that post, I had somehow purchased THREE huge bags of apples and so, forgive me, but since I am still up to my ears in apples…. here’s another fabulous apple recipe I created that used up the last of my surplus. You’ll take one bite and think, “Oh. My. Goodness. This tastes like my grandmother’s home-made apple dumplings.” (And if you didn’t have an Apple Dumpling-Baking-Granny, the Apple Dumplings at Cracker Barrel are a pretty close second.)
A few decades ago, my mother went through a spell of baking Apple Dumplings from a recipe in the red and white checked Better & Homes and Gardens Cookbook. They were delicious! People raved about them and begged for more. But they were also a LOT of trouble. For my taste they were also a little too sweet and there was too much pastry-to-apples ratio.
This recipe is ridiculously fast and easy and creates a just-right-sweet “cobbler” of apples that make their own “dumplin’ syrup” and is topped with just one flaky pastry crust (thank you Pillsbury for making this part simple, too). Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll be in Apple Dumplin’ Gang Heaven.
One hint: the only time-consuming part of this dish is peeling and chopping apples. To make this effort go faster, conscript every able-bodied adult and child over 8 years-old to come in the kitchen and peel at least 2 apples each, while you do the chopping. Promise them they will be sweetly rewarded for their labor.
Finally, a little bit of fun news from “First Magazine for Women” (you will often see this at grocery check-out counters). Last week the editor of the magazine gave a lovely review for our book, Nourished. Here’s a picture of the article:
As long as you are huddled up inside eating dumplings this week you might as well buy a copy of our funny, uplifting, practical book to cozy up and read as well. :) And our heart-felt thanks to those of you who have already read the book and perhaps posted a review on your blog or on Amazon or sent us a note or email. We are soooo thankful for your encouragement! Be sure to join us on our Facebook Fan Page, too, at We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.
Apple Dumpling Cobbler
6 to 8 peeled, chopped apples (about teaspoon size pieces) to make about 6 cups total
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 small to medium fresh lemon
1/2 t. salt
1 T. flour
2 T. butter
Sugar and Cinnamon to sprinkle on top (about 1 T. sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, but just eyeball it to your liking)
Turn oven to 350 degrees
In a large mixing bowl put apples, brown and white sugars, flour, spices and salt. Mix thoroughly. Butter a 9 by 11 casserole pan and pour the apple mixture into it. Squeeze a fresh lemon over the top of the apples and then dot with butter. Place one Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust on top of the apples, tearing it and patching it (pinch pieces together) to create a rustic, “quilted-together” pastry crust as shown below. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Note that you just kind of loosely fold the edges and tuck them around the apples. I also cut a heart shape in the middle, though as you can see, I am not a pastry artist. No worries about it looking messy, it will come out delicious and beautiful.
Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until crust is golden and flaky and apples pierce easily with a fork and the juices are golden brown and syrupy. Serve warm, using a big spoon to place in bowls, and top with ice cream.
(Becky, the Mama.)
We have all had times when our brain seems to get stuck in painful, upsetting thought loops. I’ve noticed this happens most often when there has been a deep loss (as in grief) or a slight or betrayal (perceived or real) in a significant relationship. Or if we feel wrongly accused and powerless to defend ourselves. Fear and worry can also kidnap us in a grip of terrorizing thought loops.
Often the brain goes back and forth in a ping-pong fashion, playing out imaginary scenarios or what we would say to someone — if only we could. Or how we wish things were as they once were, if only we could turn back the clock. Or how we could help or fix or cure… if only we were able to do so. Your body is in the world, but your mind is stuck in an alternate reality.
What can you do, today, to ease the pain in your brain?
I wrote of several techniques, in detail, that have proven helpful to many in our book Nourished, in a chapter titled “Nourishing the Brain in Pain.” If you were sitting at my kitchen table today and going through a rough time with a brain stuck on a Bad Thought Loop, here’s what I would share. (Based on a ton of research-based reading, good therapy and experimenting with what really worked for me.)
- Rock Your Soul. If you are in a state of exhaustion, overwhelm, upset, feeling triggered and perhaps shaky and unable to process, I’d urge you to do something physical that rocks your body back and forth, first. Get out on a porch swing, rock in a chair, talk a walk, swing your arms and head back and forth like rag doll. This technique works on adults the same way it works on a baby or child. We instinctively know to rock or swing a baby back and forth when it is upset. I won’t go into all the neurological reasons this helps, but trust me, any kind of rhythmic movement tends to release trauma.
- Healthy Distractions. Once calmer you can ask yourself, “Do I want to think about this situation right now, or can it wait until a better time?” If you don’t want to think about it right now, do a Healthy Distraction. Do something that is of great interest to you, something that absorbs your mind and focus. Or better yet, try to do or learn something brand new. This keeps the brain so busy it can’t ruminate. Take a painting class. Listen to an intriguing or uplifting Ted Talk for 20 minutes. Go to a brand new restaurant. Learn to tango. Volunteer at a homeless shelter. Adopt a pet. Whatever sounds fun and absorbs your mind and/or body. In fact, it is a good idea to make a list of Healthy Distractions so that when you find yourself kidnapped by a painful series of thoughts, you have some ideas to try at your fingertips.
- Self-Questioning/Processing. If you are in a good spot to process and think, then grab a pen and paper and get to a quiet place. Notice the feeling that is currently most painful. Is it jealousy? Anger? Hurt? Grief? Now follow that feeling down to just one thought that is underneath it all. It is often a thought that begins with, “(name of person) should not have…” or “(name of person) should have…” or (Event) should not have happened…” Or perhaps it is a worry. “I am afraid that if I don’t get this job…. I will…” Or “I worry that if my adult child doesn’t stop using drugs he will….” Don’t edit yourself to sound nicer or more spiritual, just write down the thought that is under the pain.
- Play with the Painful Thought. Now, play with that thought a bit. Try saying the opposite of it. Or switching up the sentence in various ways. Do any of these new sentences speak to you? Sound as true or truer than the painful thought, but make you feel lighter, more hopeful or happy? For example, let’s say you are feeling hurt and angry and beneath these feelings is the thought, “My brother should have given me something for my birthday.” You can play with this sentence in several ways. Here are a few examples:
* “My brother should NOT have given me something for my birthday.” – Stay with this thought for a bit. Can you think of anything positive that came from your brother NOT giving you something for your birthday? Could this event, however painful to you now, be leading you to a new level of freedom in learning to give up expectations of others? And wouldn’t you be happier if you stopped giving others the power of disappointing you? What if you stopped expecting them to be like some perceived image of a “good brother” or a “good person” – and just accepted and loved them as they are? Does that make you breathe a little easier?
* “I should give me something for my birthday.” — Hmmm…this is a great turn-around for many of us. Are we asking someone else to do what we could be doing to love and appreciate ourselves? Maybe you need to treat yourself to exactly the sort of gift you’d love. Afterall, who knows better what you really want than YOU I know someone who even planned her own surprise party! Had a blast.
* “I should give my brother something for my birthday.” – Well, there is an interesting thought. What could you give your brother to celebrate your birthday? What about the gift of letting it go and not holding this perceived slight against him, and therefore freeing yourself as well from the painful state of resentment? Can you give the gift of generous forgiveness to him, and for your own benefit, too? Or maybe you send HIM a card telling him all the things you remember that are good about him.
* “I should let God give me something for my birthday.” What do you think God is wanting to give you that is better than any human being could give you today? Can you see it? Accept it? Be thankful for this gift? Is it a sunset? The taste of a just ripe mango? A baby’s laugh? Now that you aren’t focusing on what someone else should have done, it allows room to open your eyes to the gift God is handing to you today. Is there a verse of scripture or phrase from a song or hymn that comes to mind as you pray and ask God what He longs to give you?
5. Create a comforting image to go with the thought that lifts your mood. When we create a word picture the thought becomes “stickier” to the mind and it will give the new positive thought more power over the old, painful one. So, in the example above perhaps you visualize God handing you a sunset wrapped in a bow with your name written across the sky. Perhaps attached to the sunset is a verse of scripture chosen just for you – your “birthday card” from heaven. Whenever you start to think a thought leading to a painful loop (“my brother should have given me a present, he doesn’t love me, he is so unthoughtful” ) switch to this clear image of God handing you a gift from heaven. Or perhaps the image is of you giving your brother a gift of a card that says, “I love you without expecting anything in return.” Or an image of you lovingly and cheerfully buying yourself a bouquet of Gerber daisies or a pair of earrings or a new computer gadget or workshop tool.
6. Practice Self-Care. Ask yourself, without judgment, “What do I need right now?” And continue to ask this question as you regularly check in on yourself. This is how we heal bodies and brains after a slight or trauma or loss. The worse the painful event, the more you need to tend to and pamper yourself. Do you need to sit in the sunshine and do nothing at all for 30 minutes? Do you need to nap? A hike? To watch a silly comedy? Meet a caring friend for lunch? Go on a mini-vacation? Browse a bookstore? Go on a bike ride? Did you remember to eat well? Take your vitamins or supplements? Reading Matthew 6 and Philippians 4 and of course Psalm 23, are go-to comforting scriptures for me. (Try reading old familiar passages in a new version sometimes. It may awaken you to fresh thoughts.) Finally, practice the art of saying no, with grace and without guilt. Remember: you do not need to burn yourself out in order to be a warm presence for others.